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Traverse City — Few players are as anxious to get the season started as Johan Franzen.

Franzen was one of the first players to arrive at Joe Louis Arena for the conditioning skates a few weeks back, and he's been on the ice nearly every day since, getting ready. Oct. 9, and the start of the regular season, can't arrive soon enough.

"I'm feeling great," said Franzen, who had a concussion among other injuries last season, but is healthy now. "I'm really looking forward to playing. I like the guys we have on our team and I think we can have a good year.

"I'm looking forward to it. I'm excited about playing."

Coming off a down season offensively, Franzen is looking to atone for the drop-off. ranzen had 16 goals and 25 assists in 54 games last season, then went scoreless in the five-game playoff loss to Boston.

Always a lightning rod with Red Wings fans for his streaky play, the frustration among fans reached new heights last spring.

But the Red Wings are confident Franzen can be a force this season.

"Mule has been a hot and cold player," coach Mike Babcock said. "He can be a hot player, period. Consistency is being on it every day, every day, and building on it. It's not skill set.

"That's the challenge for the Mule. He's a good player in our league. He scores goals for us. We're optimistic with all the off-season training he's done, he can be more consistent offensively this year."

Franzen, 34, knows he must increase his goal-scoring, and use his 6-foot-3, 223-pound frame, for the Red Wings to be successful.

"Not running guys over, but using my size getting to the net and staying at the net," Franzen said. "I'm going to try to score. I want to be a factor. We want to spread it out, but I'm one of the guys who should score.

"I want to get off to a good start and be the best I can be."

CLOSE

Babcock and Kronwall talk about camp and the upcoming season.

One of the veterans on the Red Wings these days, Franzen's dedication and conditioning level don't surprise his teammates.

"He's one of our leaders, one of our best players," forward Gustav Nyquist said. "We need him to be good to have success with this team."

With four entire months to recuperate after the playoff loss, Franzen used the time off to his benefit. He got his mind and body away from hockey, but trained religiously. Franzen has come into training camp in some of the best shape of his career.

But just being away from the game left an impact.

"Getting knocked out (of the playoffs) early, it was one of the longer vacations I've had in a long time," Franzen said. "It's been a long time since we played. I've been healthy all summer and I was able to work out all summer. No complaints.

"I really missed hockey."

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

twitter.com/tkulfan

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